If you’re one of the 1.7 million Australians living with diabetes, eating well is key to staying well and avoiding complications such as heart disease, vision loss, and amputation. A healthy diet can also help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and turn pre-diabetes around. But when it comes to diabetes, what does healthy eating actually look like?
The idea that people with diabetes need to avoid carbs and cannot eat any sugar at all is completely out of date. Plus, it’s not a very healthy or fun way to live. When we focus on avoiding one nutrient, we often throw the baby out with the bathwater. And can lose sight of the overall nutritional quality of our food. It also leaves no room in your life for the occasional slice of birthday cake or treats.
A more effective (and enjoyable) approach is to focus on achieving dietary balance. This means ensuring every meal contains a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and some healthy fats. And don’t forget the veggies! Instead of searching for sugar-free cakes and biscuits, switch to nourishing snacks such as fruit with plain yogurt or whole-grain crackers with cheese.
It’s not about choosing special, “diabetes-friendly” foods, but healthy whole foods in the right quantity. Many people think that foods like pasta need to be off the menu if you have diabetes, but Lite n’ Easy shows how to include portion-controlled servings of these foods as part of a balanced diet.
“I started at 122 kilos, the heaviest I’d ever been. Before Lite n’ Easy, I had tried everything to lose weight. But I never stuck to anything for very long and the weight would always come back on. As a Type 1 Diabetic since childhood, my endocrinologist had said “If you stay like this you are going to shorten your life span”. So in late 2020, I decided to refocus and give weight loss a proper go, again. I had the feeling it was now or never.” Lite n’ Easy customer, Laura
It’s okay to snack, as long as you are choosing balanced snacks that include a source of carbohydrate plus either protein or fat (or both!). Eating healthy, regular meals and snacks helps keep blood sugar levels stable. It can also prevent hypoglycaemia or “hypos” for those who use insulin. It stops you from becoming overly hungry, which can lead to overeating and blood sugar spikes. For many people, eating every 3-4 hours is a good amount of time to keep hunger and blood sugar levels under control, but choose an eating pattern that’s right for you.
People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease. This means that limiting your salt intake, eating less saturated fat, and consuming plenty of heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats is key. Skip the salt at the dinner table and choose low-sodium or salt-reduced canned options where possible. Make olive oil your cooking and seasoning oil of your choice. Nuts are a powerhouse snack, particularly for people with diabetes, as they contain healthy fats and gut-boosting fibre, and won’t spike blood sugar levels.
Lite n’ Easy’s complete 1200 Calorie Meal Plan provides less than 2000mg sodium per day and less than 10% energy from saturated fat in line with National Heart Foundation recommendations.
When it comes to eating regular meals that are healthy and portion-controlled, failing to plan is planning to fail! It’s no use waiting until you’re already hungry or your blood sugar is dropping to work out what you’re going to eat. Instead, set aside some time over the weekend to prepare a few healthy meals that you can keep in the fridge or freezer. This way they’re ready when you need them. And keep some healthy, balanced snacks on hand such as nuts or fruit and plain yoghurt. Prepared meals such as Lite n’ Easy are a great option to save you time and rest assured that chefs and dietitians develop the plans. So, they not only taste great but are good for you, being built with the Australian Dietary Guidelines in mind.
If you require insulin to manage your diabetes, you will need to keep track of your carb intake to ensure you inject the correct dose of insulin. This is a necessary part of managing insulin-dependent diabetes, but all the weighing and measuring and be a real hassle. Prepared meals, such as those by Lite n’ Easy, are not only healthy but do the hard work for you, including counting carbs.
“I have several medical conditions including diabetes, that make preparing a meal difficult. There are many things I cannot eat because of certain conditions and food allergies, so before Lite n’ Easy I often just didn’t eat much at all because it was in the too-hard basket. I very seldom felt hungry, so would skip meals.
In the end, I became quite unwell because I was undernourished. Now with Lite n’ Easy, it is a breeze.
Lite n’ Easy lists all the ingredients of each meal on the website, which is handy for me, so I can avoid certain meals with things like coconut for example. I can also look at the calories and carbohydrates in each meal to make sure I am hitting my targets to manage my diabetes.” Lite n’ Easy customer, Aunty Barb
The Lite n’ Easy dietitians produce a handy menu spreadsheet each season for anyone who needs to count their carbs. Check out our Downloads page.
Alcohol is a tricky one, particularly if you are someone who needs to take insulin. Alcoholic beverages are typically high in carbs, which cause blood sugar spikes, but alcohol can cause hypoglycaemia. People find that the amount of insulin needed to bring their blood sugar down after a few drinks can push them into hypoglycaemia later in the night (or early that morning). This is because alcohol wreaks havoc on their blood sugar levels. For those who are wanting to lose weight, it’s suggested to limit your intake. Low alcoholic or light beer, dry wine, and using soda water rather than sugary mixers are better choices when drinking. Make sure you still have regular alcohol-free days and only drink in moderation.
People with different types of diabetes will have different needs, and as individual needs vary, we recommend you seek advice from a health professional for individual dietary guidance.